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Title: Metformin as an Alternative Radiosensitizing Agent to 5-Fluorouracil During Neoadjuvant Treatment for Rectal Cancer
Authors: FERNANDES, Jennifer MarxJANDREY, Elisa Helena FariasKOYAMA, Fernanda ChristtaniniLEITE, Katia Ramos MoeiraCAMARGO, Anamaria AranhaCOSTA, Erico TosoniPEREZ, Rodrigo OlivaASPRINO, Paula Fontes
Citation: DISEASES OF THE COLON & RECTUM, v.63, n.7, p.918-926, 2020
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Neoadjuvant chemoradiation for locally advanced rectal cancer combining 5-fluorouracil with radiation increases tumor regression compared with radiation alone. However, it occurs at the cost of significant treatment-related toxicity. Patients with rectal cancer using metformin have been associated with improved response to radiotherapy. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the radiosensitizing effects of metformin in vitro and in vivo and compare it with a standard combination of radiation/5-fluorouracil. DESIGN: Colorectal cancer cell lines SW480, HT29, and HCT116 were used as models. Cell viability was compared under treatments with radiation, radiation/5-fluorouracil, metformin, radiation/metformin, and radiation/5-fluorouracil/metformin. Nude mice were injected subcutaneously with SW480 cells and treated for 1 week with radiation/5-fluorouracil, metformin, radiation/metformin, or radiation/5-fluorouracil/metformin. Tumor volume was evaluated for 4 weeks after treatment completion. The phosphorylation status of key proteins of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway was determined by immunoblots. SETTINGS: This was an experimental study conducted in vitro and in vivo. PATIENTS: Animal models/cell lines were used. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The end point was to investigate how metformin compares with 5-fluorouracil as a radiosensitizer. RESULTS: All cell lines significantly decreased cell viability after treatment with radiation/metformin when compared with radiation alone. Radiation/metformin was superior to radiation/5-fluorouracil in SW480 (37% vs 74%; p < 0.001). In HT29 and in HCT116, radiation/metformin was inferior to radiation/5-fluorouracil (40.0% vs 13.8%, p < 0.001 and 40.0% vs 7.0%, p < 0.001), mainly because of increased 5-fluorouracil toxicity (<= 20% of cell viability). In vivo assays indicated that radiation/metformin treatment was comparable with radiation/5-fluorouracil (557 vs 398 mm(3); p > 0.05) and that the addition of metformin to the standard radiation/5-fluorouracil did not improve tumor response (349 mm(3); p > 0.05). Metformin exerted strong PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway inactivation effects after 24-hour exposure (increasing pAMPK, p < 0.01; decreasing pAkt, p < 0.01; and pS6, p <0.05). LIMITATIONS: In vitro and in vivo chemoradiation regimens cannot be directly translated to human delivery methods. CONCLUSIONS: Metformin enhances tumor response to radiation in vitro and in vivo. Metformin is an attractive alternative radiosensitizing agent to be considered in future studies/trials. See Video Abstract at
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